If 2pm wasn’t hard enough on a Thursday, today we learned that Tigers DH Victor Martinez is going to need surgery to repair a torn left meniscus, the same meniscus that he tore before the 2012 season in conjunction with his ACL. Even if the tear is bad this time around, it’s still a much less serious injury if you’re looking for comfort.
As far as the product on the field, the question isn’t really if the Tigers can replace Martinez. They can’t. There’s no one in the organization who can match Martinez, but realistically speaking Martinez is probably going to miss a month or so of real, live baseball. At the top end, he’s a 4 win player and that means we’re talking about less than a win lost over the course of a month. Obviously a blow, but it’s not like learning Cabrera is out for the season.
There are three additional points worth making regarding this injury. First, remember this moment the next time you want the club to sign an aging star to an expensive contract. I was fine with the contract, but the idea that a proven player is a sure thing is just dead wrong. Martinez is as steady a hitter as they come, but an old player getting hurt and missing time isn’t news.
Second, this is why I’m always lamenting the Tigers’ allergy to depth. No team would be in good shape with injuries to Cabrera/Martinez type players, but it would be a lot better if their the fill in options weren’t Hessman or Lennerton. If you’re a team that loves expensive, aging players, it’s probably a good idea to stock up on bench options.
Finally, the real kicker here isn’t the time lost. The concern is how this recovery will affect him for the next year and the three years after that. Martinez took a long time to get himself straightened out after his last injury and you worry that you’ll lose him for a month but he won’t be himself for a few more. Martinez is young by normal human being standards, but for a ballplayer, he’s in his golden years.
The Tigers are a diminished team without Martinez playing from a less impressive deck than they have been in recent years. There are good players on the team and fun players on the team, but they’re in that window where little problems like a few weeks without Martinez wind up making Progressive Field and October destination.